October 27, 2020
Clinical Contributors to this Story
Michelle Lomotan, M.D. contributes to topics such as Internal Medicine.
When the conclusion of Daylight Saving Time approaches on November 1st, you may remember that it’s time to replace all of the batteries in your smoke detectors, but that isn’t the only thing to think about. It’s also time to prepare yourself for the impact that a one-hour time shift may have on your sleep.
Although the clock only moves by an hour, it typically takes your body several days to adjust to the change. Some people consider the start of Daylight Saving Time in March – the “spring ahead” shift – to be a harder adjustment, since we “lose” an hour, but the “fall back” shift at the conclusion of Daylight Saving Time, when we “gain” an hour, can also negatively impact your sleep-wake cycle.
“Getting used to a one-hour change in schedule is like flying to a different time zone and experiencing one hour of jet lag, which requires you to adjust accordingly,” says Michelle Lomotan, M.D., a primary care physician with Hackensack Meridian Medical Group. “After the clocks change, you may feel tired or alert at the wrong times until you acclimate to the new schedule.”
Planning a smooth transition at the end of Daylight Saving Time
If you’re an early bird, you may have trouble staying up an hour later than usual to acclimate to the time shift at the end of Daylight Saving Time.
If you’re a night owl, you may have difficulty waking up in the morning, especially if it’s suddenly dark outside your window and you’ve been accustomed to daylight streaming in.
Making gradual adjustments to your schedule may help you adjust to the new time change more easily, rather than shifting your sleep schedule by one full hour the night that the clocks change.
To prepare for the upcoming shift in time:
- get at least 7 hours of sleep on a consistent basis
- spend 3 or 4 days before November 1st gradually shifting your bedtime later, 15 minutes per day
- keep your bedtime routine the same, so that your body recognizes that it’s time for bed
- stop eating and drinking 2 to 3 hours before bedtime
- avoid alcohol in the evening, since it may disrupt sleep
- limit your exposure to bright light an hour or two before bed, including light from your phone
- expose yourself to bright light in the morning, whether sunlight or artificial light
- exercise in the morning, preferably outdoors in bright light
- if you’re tired, nap before 3 p.m. for no more than 20 to 30 minutes
If you have trouble awakening in the morning after the clocks change, don’t reach for more coffee than usual to power through your day. When you overdo it with caffeine, you may have a harder time falling asleep at bedtime, which may extend the time that it takes you to adjust to the new schedule.
Take it easy the week that the clocks change
Recognize that you may need some time to adjust to the conclusion of Daylight Saving Time. If you feel more tired than usual as you acclimate, you may not be your best self. Do your best to minimize stress, which may make it harder to fall asleep at night. Try not to schedule major work deadlines.
Most people adjust to the new time change within a few days. If you’re still having problems falling asleep or awakening a week after Daylight Saving Time ends, see your doctor.
Next Steps & Resources:
- Meet our source: Michelle Lomotan, M.D.
- To make an appointment with Dr. Lomotan or a doctor near you, call 800-822-8905 or visit our website.
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The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.